Pope Francis on Friday paved the way for the recognition of sainthood for Pope John Paul II.
From news reports on the decision:
Francis decided that John XXIII could be declared a saint even though the Vatican hasn’t confirmed a second miracle attributed to his intercession. The Vatican said Francis had the power to dispense with such requirements and proceed with only one confirmed miracle to his name.
The ceremony is expected before the end of the year. The date of Dec. 8 has been floated as one possibility, given it’s the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a major feast day for the church. Polish prelates continue to press for October, to mark the 35th anniversary of the Polish-born John Paul’s election, but Vatican officials have suggested that’s too soon to organize such a massive event.
The announcement came on a remarkable day melding papacies past and present: It opened with Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI attending their first Vatican ceremony together, sitting side-by-side on matching papal chairs for the unveiling of a statue in the Vatican gardens. It continued with the publication of Francis’ first encyclical, a meditation on faith that was largely written by Benedict before he retired. And it climaxed with Francis’ decision to canonize two other predecessors.
Each event, historic on its own, would have captured headlines. But the canonization announcement capped them all, reflecting the priorities of this unique pontificate that has already broken so many rules, from Francis’ decision to shun papal vestments to his housing arrangements, living in the Vatican hotel rather than the stuffy Apostolic Palace.
Francis will set the date at an upcoming meeting of cardinals.
Pope John Paul II left behind a very strong pro-life legacy.
Father David O’Connell, President of Catholic University in Washington, told Voice of America that the Pope left behind a pro-life legacy in which he reasserted the moral values the Catholic Church holds dear.
“His talking about abortion reflects his consistent belief and conviction and the consistent belief of the Catholic church in the sacredness of human life and every human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death,” Father O’Connell said.
“And he was unwavering in his speaking about that, writing about that, and dealing with that issue within our world,” Father O’Connell explained.
President George W. Bush noted those pro-life standards when he expressed his condolences on the Pope’s death.
The president said Pope John Paul II “reminded us of our obligation to build a culture of life, in which the strong protect the weak.”
“And during the pope’s final years, his witness was made even more powerful by his daily courage in the face of illness and great suffering,” Bush added.
“He is an inspiration to us all” and a “faithful servant of God and a champion of human dignity and freedom,” President Bush explained.
During the Pope’s tenure, he would consistently reaffirm the church’s opposition to abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and assisted suicide.
He encouraged outreach to women considering abortions as well as those who were suffering the physical or emotional trauma of a past abortion.
In March 1995, the Pope issued the Evangelium Vitae, an encyclical which boldly asserted the right to life for all people, regardless of their station in life.
Weighing into the political realm as the Pope often did, he criticized those politicians who cast votes in favor of abortion.
The Vatican also took strong pro-life positions at the United Nations, consistently opposing use of UN documents to create an international right to abortion and joining the United States in lobbying for a ban on all forms of human cloning.
Dozens of pro-life groups issued statements marking the death of the beloved pontiff at that time, saying that his refusal to compromise on the sanctity of human life will guide the pro-life community for years to come.
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“Today we bid farewell to Pope John Paul the Great, the Pope of Life,” Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, said then.
“His teachings will guide and nourish the Church for centuries,” Pavone explained. “In particular, his teachings on the sanctity of life, especially the unborn, will continue to stir our consciences to build a culture of life.”
Wanda Franz, Ph.D., president of the National Right to Life Committee, said the pope “was an unfaltering voice for the unborn, the disabled and the elderly and was a strong defender of the right to life.”
“His stalwart opposition to the evils of abortion, infanticide and euthanasia was grounded in compassion and love and he will be deeply missed,” Franz added.
Franz said the Pope was often at his happiest when spending time with youth and children at events such as World Youth Day and spreading the message of life.
Franz’s group gave the Pope its highest pro-life award in 1996.